The New Year is here and if you celebrated December 31, 2011 with confetti, champagne and a countdown but didn’t make the resolution to improve your personal finances—fear not, for it is never too late to give your financial lifestyle a makeover! We are just a few days into 2012 so forget about 2011, kiss your old wallet-draining habits goodbye and prepare to embark upon a fresh financial start with the following resolutions that you can easily stick to:
#1: Set goals. When making your financial resolutions, try to be as detailed as you can in outlining what it is exactly that you want to achieve. “Saving more money” is great but that isn’t specific enough. Make your goals measurable so you are able to track your progress—if you want to have your credit card paid off in six months or to have $5,000 in your savings account by the end of the year…then base your goals off of these concise metrics. Be sure to set mini-goals along the way and set an end goal with a deadline. In doing this you will find that your resolutions can be more real than just a wish at midnight.
#2: Eliminate debt. What better way to enter a new year and a new financial chapter in your life than by wiping your slate clean of debt? If you carry a balance on a credit card or have loans and other payments that are holding you back from doing what you really want with your money, paying these off can allow you to pursue other goals. Make a plan by prioritizing your liabilities by interest rate and eliminate the debts that incur the highest amount of interest before all others. Once you have paid off those debts, tackle the next in line until you have the satisfaction of seeing your balances reach an amount of $0.
#3: Paper, no plastic. Using a credit card is easy and it is also an important tool in building and maintaining good credit. However, keep in mind that those who lay down a credit card for purchases rather than cash tend to spend more money (in fact, these card users generally spend 12—18% more than cash users). Dishing out cash allows you to actively see how much you are removing from your bank account, when using credit cards tends to promote the bad habit of blind spending.
#4: Save, save, save. When giving your personal finances a makeover, you mustn’t forget to create a savings fund. Whether you are saving for something special like a family vacation or stashing some cash in an emergency fund in case of unexpected expenses, with a savings you will have the peace of mind knowing that you have the coverage when you need it. Even if you don’t have a lot of extra money to set aside, any little bit helps.
#5: Automate. It’s no surprise that when the bills arrive in your mail-box, so does the stress. Eliminate some of that and establish automated bill pay. When you have your bills set to be withdrawn from your bank account each month, it is less painful than handing over a check to your electric company. And when you payments are automatically deducted for you, you won’t have to worry about being late on your payments and incurring exorbitant late fees.
Don’t just automate your bills—automate your savings as well. If you’ve had trouble saving in the past, this is one of the most effective methods of avoiding defaulting on your savings goals. Because your money is drawn directly from your check and is put into your account before you can even get your hands on it, you are forced to save.
#6: Be a giver. Whether donating to your favorite charity or treating a friend to lunch, your act of thoughtfulness will make someone else feel good and will make you a happier person. Charitable giving is one of the most effective ways to realize the value of money and you also have the added benefit of a tax deduction come April 15th.
Now that you know six financial resolutions guaranteed to jump start your New Year, you will be on your way to a happy, healthy 2012 with a happy, healthy wallet!
Cindy McDonald is a guest post author who enjoys educating readers on ways to improve their personal finances. In addition, Cindy also contributes her work to Christian Singles Dating Sites where she offers her tips for safe dating in the Christian cyber community.